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Vanderbilt Postgame and Illinois State Preview

Wildcats Sink the Commodores 23 - 21

Here’s how the game went by the numbers - my numbers. Just after the game my blood pressure was 170/120. It took 20 minutes to get back to something resembling normal. The Cardiac Cats are going to kill me one day. If my column stops midseason, you’ll know they finally got me. Bury me in my NUMBALUM polo shirt.

But enough about me. Let’s take a look at the Wildcats.

The Wildcats charged out to a 10 - 0 lead in the 1st Quarter. It looked like the score could end 40 - 0 the way the ‘Cats were playing. Northwestern was looking like a team who could make some noise in the Big Ten.

Going into the 2nd Quarter, the Wildcats looked dominant; they were up 10 - 0. Then Persa dropped the ball and Vandy recovered. At that point the whole complexion of the game changed. Vanderbilt woke up and made a game of it. The ‘Cats went flat. What started as a rout of the Commodores turned into an epic battle.

Despite that, the Wildcats never fell behind. However, the game was still in doubt until the very last seconds. (Hence the BP issue noted above.) The final few minutes went like this: TD Vandy (pulling within 2 of NU), but they couldn’t convert a 2pt conversion, the ‘Cats took over, Vandy committed a personal foul (a Roshomon moment - ESPN3.com went wonky at that point), the ‘Cats used the ensuing first down to run out the clock, and the Vandy fans went berserk, raining bottles and such down on the referees as they ran for their lives.

Sticking with the season’s prediction categories (The Good, The Bad, and The Probable), this game came out as The Probable. It was a win, but Vandy covered the point spread. However, a win is a win. 1-0 is fine, however we got there.

The Good: Persa’s performance (good throwing/running), the punting game (much improved - it kept Vandy backed up), and various fresh faces showed up to play (the Wildcats looked like they picked up some speed over last year).

The Bad: Consistency (the ‘Cats went flat during the 2nd Quarter after a Persa fumble), the kicking game (a FG and PAT went wrong, but I don’t think it was Demos’ fault), the running game (there was more success running up Vandy’s gut vice trying to get to a corner - take a look at the game film), and the offensive line allowed Persa to get sacked 4 times (not including him scrambling for his life and fumbling in the 2nd quarter).

Northwestern 23 - the Northwestern of the Southeast 21. The ‘Cats capture the Nerd Bowl. Now we need to win six more games to confirm a trip to a bowl game. (I’m not counting on 6 - 6 getting NU to a bowl.)

First Look At Illinois State:

The predictions: The Good, The Bad, and The Probable. (BTW, the Vegas line seems to be NU by 28 or 29 as of 8 September.)

The Good:

The Redhawks get shot down, plucked, or name your own “killing an avian” metaphor. The NU kicking game has no sign of errors. The punt game gets limited play, but it looks the best it has in years. The Wildcats get an effective running game going, perhaps by just charging up the middle with the help of an effective O-line. Persa comes out during the 3rd quarter and the 2nd/3rd team offense gets some reps. The defense is dominant throughout the game and pitch a shutout. Along the way, all potential interceptions are made - no dropped balls. And there are no injuries. Everything works and Northwestern makes it look easy. A win against Rice looks probable.

Final score: Wildcats 45 - Redhawks 0. (Blood Pressure at end: 150/90.)

The Bad (Really bad…)

The Wildcats can lose the game - Illinois State is filled with second teamers from various Big Ten schools who got tired of the bench. (“Better to play in Hell than to sit in Heaven” or something like that.) It can happen...but not today. However, The Bad has has NU losing Persa to an injury after he gets NU a couple of TDs, the offense goes flat (no running game once Persa leaves the field), and the defense gets embarrassed by a Div 1-AA (err...FCS) school that hangs 21+ on a team that was looking to the next week’s game against Rice - only now they get to try it without Persa.

Final score: NU 31 - IS 24. (Blood Pressure at end: 160/110 out of frustration.)

The Probable

The Wildcats start fast and go up by 3 TDs (or 2 TDs and a FG). Just before the half, NU reverts to conservative mode and what started as a sprint turns into a slow jog. NU’s running game isn’t exactly inspiring (again), but this time they actually experiment with running it up the gut - and get more success than running backwards. The defense plays a little better and actually gets more sacks than the NU offensive line gives up. It’s kind of boring once you get past halftime, but a boring win is far better than an exciting loss. Wildcat fans look to Rice with some trepidation; they also keep hoping the team will stay more than a step ahead of their foes.

Final score: Northwestern 31 - Illinois State 17. (Blood Pressure at end: 150/90)

Maybe I should start taking Over/Under on my blood pressure.

The post game analysis (along with end of game blood pressure) sometime next week.

I think I’m going to make a chart and post my end of game BP readings week by week. If someone wants to donate an automatic BP/Pulse monitor, I’ll take readings before and during the game and turn the experience into a science experiment. (Can you tell that I graduated NU with a science degree?)

This Week in Wildcat Football 15 Years Ago

2 September 1995 was the start of the Miracle Season, which ushered in the Modern Era of Wildcat Football. The opening game was the Northwestern Wildcats upset of Notre Dame. A week later was an open date. So we had a whole extra week to think about whether the Notre Dame win was a freak occurrence (like a “Century Storm”) or if the win presaged something not unlike Lazarus emerging from the tomb. Leonard of “Leonard’s Losers” didn’t know what to make of the situation.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame worked off some frustration by dropping Purdue 35 - 28. That gave some indication that ND wasn’t totally awful in the 1995 season. So the NU win was looking even better. In fact, during the bye week, Northwestern hit the national rankings at #25 - the first time they were ranked in decades.

Was NU a decent team this year? Or was it a total fluke due to ND overlooking the Wildcats as they prepped for the Boilermakers? There was a lot of debate over the issue during the off week. But for now the Northwestern faithful were basking in the glow of a national ranking.

The game after the off week was Miami (OH) coached by Randy Walker. It would be a litmus test to see if the 1995 Wildcats were the real thing.

Go ‘Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)




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